has been dubbed, somewhat romantically, the last Shangri la,
the Moonland, and even Little Tibet; yet all these descriptions
hold some truth. Ladakh is the most remote region of Kashmir.
It is a barren, virtually rainless, high altitude area which
lies north of the Himayayas on what is known, geographically,
as the Tibetan Plateau. The Himalayas serve as a barrier to
the clouds carrying rain from south so virtually none of it
gets across to fall on Ladakh. As a consequence the region has
only a few cm of rain per year (as little as the Sahara), creating
the 'moonland' effect - a barren, grey-brown, yellow-white landscape
utterly devoid of vegetation. Only where rivers carry water,
from far-off glaciers or melting snow, to habitation do you
find plant life. Ladakh really does seem to be a miniature version
of Tibet. Apart from the fact that Ladakh is on the Tibetan
Plateau and the two regions have experienced a similar isolation
from the rest of the world, the people of Ladakh and Tibet are
also related and share a cultural and religious heritage that
goes back centuries.
also has many refugees who fled Tibet with the invasion from
China. In fact, Ladakh today is probably far more Tibetan than
Tibet, which has been considerably changed by the Chinese. Finally,
Ladakh could well be the last Shangri la. Due to its strategic
location the area is disputed by the Indians, Pakistan and Chinese
- it was virtually closed to outsiders from the end of WW II
until 1974. The daunting height of the Himalayas added to this
isolation. Even now the main route into Ladakh is open for less
than six months of each year. Also until 1979 there was no regular
civilian flight into Ladakh, so from October to June the region
was completely cut off.
Ladakh is now open to outsiders or at least as open as its geography
and political boundaries permit. No special permission is needed
to enter Ladakh and within the region you can travel with relative
freedom. Because of its fairly recent exposure to the outside
world, and the rapid growth in tourism, it is especially important
to treat Ladakh, its people and their culture with respect and
care. It's a gentle, crime-free peaceful and religious society.
Ladakh is full of amazing sights; strange gompas (monasteries)
perched on soaring hilltops, dwarfed by snow-capped mountains;
ancient places clinging to sheer rock walls; and all around
the barren shattered landscapes are splashed with small but
brilliant patches of green. But most of all it is notable for
its colorful delightful people who are so extraordinarily friendly.
It's an amazing place.
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